064 RR Presenting at Conferences

by Charles Max Wood on August 1, 2012

Panel

Discussion

  • Deciding to speak in the first place.
  • Builds your brand
  • Cure for introversion
  • A way to learn a topic
  • Pragmatic Thinking and Learning
  • Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition
  • Kinds of talks:
    Keynote
    How-To
    Experience Report
    “Blow Your Mind”
    Patterns and Practices
    Soft Talks/Motivational
    “Check out my new library”
  • Picking a topic.
  • “Someone on the internet is wrong!”
  • Use your natural disposition.
  • What you know/what you want to learn
  • Talk about the problems solved by your topic.
  • Tell a story.
  • The abstract should sell the talk.
  • Write the abstract first.
  • It’s fine to not know something.
  • Avoid totally mainstream topics.
  • There’s always something new to say.
  • Your name/brand counts a lot (more than it should).
  • Be thorough with your proposal.
  • Bounce ideas off your wife.
  • Submit multiple ideas (if allowed).
  • Slide Content
  • Recommend against live coding – use pre-recorded instead.
  • Mistakes To Avoid
    Relying on Internet Access
    Poor Contrast on Slides
    Keep Code Sparse Per Slide
    Don’t read your whole speech from slides or paper.
    Putting off speaking until you’ve mastered it.
  • Talks Before Conferences
  • Get Feedback
  • Rehearse the Talk
  • Be Funny and Entertaining
  • Brain Rules by John Medina
  • Open with a Joke
  • Conference Expectations
  • How to Work Well With the Conference Staff – Josh
  • Interact with others outside of the speaking.
  • “That Guy”
    Speakers should be respectful of the audience.
    Unpleasant audience interaction is often inevitable.

Picks

Transcript 

JOSH: I love the tweet that Tobi made yesterday. He said, “Wow, these babies sure are small while they are booting up.”

*laughter*

And then somebody’s response was, “Just like the JVM, they take a while to get started, but soon they grow to consume all of your resources.”

*laughter*

CHUCK: [This podcast is sponsored by New Relic. To track and optimize your application performance, go to rubyrogues.com/new relic.]

[Hosting is provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at bluebox.net. ]

[This episode is sponsored by JetBrains, makers of RubyMine. If you like having an IDE that provides great inline debugging tool, built-in version control and path completion, then check out RubyMine by going to jetbrains.com/ruby]

Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 64 of the Ruby Rogues Podcast! This week on our panel, we have James Edward Gray II.

JAMES: Don’t do me first. I’m still on page 7 of the Ars Technical Review.

CHUCK: Oh, sorry. We also have Josh Susser.

JOSH: Happy Mountain Lion Day!

CHUCK: And finally, we have Avdi Grimm.

AVDI: Hello from Pennsylvania!

CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv and this week we are going to be talking about Presenting at Conferences.

JAMES: Did you say “DEVchat.tv”?

CHUCK: I sure did.

JAMES: Because it sounded like DEADchat.tv. Just checking.

CHUCK: Yeah, that’s my other more sedate podcast, interview people who are no longer with us. Alright, so I know some of you guys have actually organized conferences.

JOSH: Yeah.

CHUCK: So I’m a little curious as to what expectations you have. So the question in user voice says,

“As an aspiring conference presenter, I would like to hear from the experts, (that’s you guys) on their process of picking a topic and what kind of preparation they do and any tips they may have. Lots of codes samples, live coding, funny pictures of kittens? Also with Confreaks doing such an excellent job on recording the talks, it seems increasingly difficult for me to find unique talks. Conferences are expensive both in terms of time and money so I would want to advice the community. Another corollary to that is, once I start applying to give talks, if have one accepted, Confreaks will be recording what are the options I’m giving it again.”

So we got a lot of good questions in there.

JAMES: That’s actually a cool topic that I actually love a lot. So let’s take some of those points. How do you guys pick a topic? Let’s start there.

AVDI: Can we start like one step before that? I think it’s also interesting just like talk about why we decide speaking. I mean obviously, the person who’s asking the question has decided to speak but should people speak at conferences and  what drives people to do that?

CHUCK: You play basketball right? You know what a “ball hog” is? It’s something like that.

*laughter*

JAMES: Wait a minute.

AVDI: Are you referring to speaking to conferences or what I am doing with the call right now?

JAMES: A lot of things just happened now. First of all, Avdi plays basketball? What?

AVDI: That’s the game where you weave a basket and then you toss ping pong balls at it, right?

JAMES: Wouldn’t that mess up his hair?

*laughter*

JOSH: I tried playing basketball but it turns out dribbling is not what I thought it was.

*laughter*

JAMES: But yes, Avdi has a great point. Why should we speak at conferences?

JOSH: OK. I’ll pick one. I think there is many reasons to speak at a conference. One is you like people.. no.. I won’t go that way.

*laughter*

CHUCK: Wait back up.

JOSH: OK. You like people making fun of you on stage. OK speaking at conferences, there’s a couple of reasons; one is you have something cool that you want to educate people about. Another is that  you have some business reason that you want to promote a product or promote yourself. Actually speaking at conferences can be a really useful thing to do in terms of creating your personal brand and self-promotion. That might sound like an in ill-natured thing to do. But I think it’s a really great exchange. You provide information and cool stuff for people and you get your brand built and promoted.

JAMES: Yeah that’s a great point. I mean like especially people who do a lot of freelancing and stuff, you got to get that job somewhere, right? That means people need to know that you are out there, that you do know you are doing and this is one of the great ways to get that across. You got the idea that you are talking about and stuff like that and that is one way to make that happen.

JOSH: And likewise, companies like to send out speakers to help promote the company. When I worked at Pivotal Labs like we always wanted people going to conferences and speaking because it was a good way to build the company’s brand as well.

AVDI: I agree with all those points and I wanna add probably the biggest reason that I start speaking; it was introversion hack for me. I’ve gone to one or two conferences as just an attendee and I realized that my sort of my crushing introversion, being what it is, I wasn’t really getting as much out of them as I knew I should be, especially the fact that they are expensive and they give time out. Because I can totally go to a conference and I have taken talks and then I would totally fail to meet people in the hallways. And that’s like the biggest value (I think) of going to a conference is meeting people and “networking” to use a kind of icky word with “meeting people” and all that. And so, one of the biggest reason why I started speaking was I just realized that if I give a talk at a conference, then people will come and talk to me and I don’t have to like read books on how to meet people and start conversations because people will come in and start conversations with me. So it was kind of a “hack”. It was like, how can I work with my introversion rather than against it.

JOSH: It is a good way to develop yourself and to push yourself past to your limits. I think it’s really interesting that people will go and speak in front of a large group of their peers, because public peaking is the number thing that Americans are frightened of. Yeah, people are generally more afraid of public speaking that they are of dying.

JAMES: That’s actually funny because I speak at quite a few conferences and in front of pretty large groups. I was sitting in front of the group of my friends the other day and we were all talking about it and it came out that I’m just like terrified of public speaking. Whenever I turned around and there is that initial moment where get up on stage and I turned around and I realized I’m staring at hundreds of people. That’s like super panic moment for me. So I just sit there and get through it. Once I started talking, I’m pretty okay. But it’s that initial… from the time I get up on stage, from the time started talking. I hate that point. That’s awful.

JOSH: OK but I know the part that you love. And so I want you to talk about doing a talk as a way to learn a subject.

JAMES: Doing a talk as a way to learn a subject? Yeah. I do that a lot. When I propose a talk for a conference, typically I would choose something I am interested in learning more  than I would choose something that I know really well. Obviously I would choose within that area where I know it’s easy for me to pick it up. I won’t do something that is way out of my skill or something like that. But, it’s like, “Oh, I have played with all these SQL databases but never this one. So, let’s go figure out what is cool about that one.” and then I’ll propose to that talk as way to motivate myself to do that.

Also I have other reasons for doing that too. There is the “Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition”, which is covered really great in the Andy Hunt book, “Pragmatic Thinking and Learning” (which I know I have recommend before I read that book). But that book talks about how if you are an expert in some area,  and are actually pretty crappy choice to teach that particular topic. Because you really want somebody who is about maybe one or two levels above you on the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition to be teaching you, because they still understand and connect with the particular pains that you are encountering at your level.

So, if I choose something that I know really, really well, then I don’t cover it as well. But, if I choose something that I’m getting up to speed on, then I’m hitting the bumps along the way, right? And I’ll remember to talk about those. It will be like, “Oh yeah, when I tried to do this, this part sucks. So, here’s how I solved it.”

CHUCK:  So the next part of that question was, how do you pick topic? I think James have kind of outlined some of the ways that he picks topics. But how do you pick a topic that they are actually going to ask you to speak on at the conference?

JOSH: “Somebody on the internet is wrong!”

*laughter*

CHUCK: That happens?

JAMES: That’s a great one. That is how Gary Bernhardt picks topics.

JOSH: Yeah. You see people saying something wrong, you go up and set the records straight.

CHUCK: OK. It doesn’t seem like though I can recall seeing that many people talking about that. I guess I just mentioned that in the beginning. Somebody said this and I am going to talk about it and then I tell you why it’s not correct.

JOSH: So before we get too much into picking topics, can we talk about the different kinds of talks and why we would wanna do… like, there are couple of different types of talks, like picking the type of talk before you pick the topic is how I do it.

JAMES: Break it out for us.

JOSH: So, I can think of like four kinds of talks that are typical; one is the “Keynote Talk” and I think that is a very distinct kind of talk. Then, there is a sort of “How-To Talk”, which takes a piece of technology or tool, introduces it and goes into some detail of how to use it effectively and why you might wanna use it. Another is an “Experience Report”, where you say, “Hey, here is something that I did and an interesting thing that I learned along the way.” And so basically, help people from their experience so that they don’t have to repeat the same mistakes that you did. And then I think there’s just ( what’s a good way to describe this…) “Blow Your Mind” kind of talk. And I think a great example of that was the talk that James did at RailsConf about “10 Things You Didn’t Know Rails Could Do”.

JAMES: Oh I thought that was the category of “Bad Ideas Talk”.

*laughter*

JOSH: That is a valid category as well.

JAMES: Yeah, that’s my favorite.

JOSH: So, I have done one keynote talk and that’s was probably the hardest talk I have ever did.

JAMES: I agree. I have done one and I probably won’t do it again.

JOSH: I really liked doing it and I got to say stuff that I would never get say otherwise, when do you a keynote talk, you pretty much have the license to make stuff up.

*laughter*

CHUCK: That explains a lot.

JOSH: The point of the keynote is to basically inspire people.

JAMES: Yeah to give marching orders, to set the tone.

JOSH: So I love the keynote talk that Dave Thomas did at RailsConf years ago, where he said, “Hey, let’s embrace enterprise. Here are all the things that you can do to make Ruby and Rails be friendly to the enterprise.”  And years later, look at all the things he talked about in that talk and most of them have come to past now in some way or another. It was a great talk. And then his other talk about CRUD. I thought that was a very too. So, a Keynote has an opportunity to really plant the seed of an idea in the community and from there you can watch it grow. The keynote that I did was unfortunately not recorded. It was in a relatively small conference and it didn’t get written up it didn’t have a big effect, but a couple of people liked it so that was okay.

JAMES: So here’s my thing about keynotes; they are usually (like as Josh says), inspirational, high level but often more about community than they are about code and things like that. And I totally suck at all those things. So, I prefer to give normal talks because the only thing that I know how to do is code. That’s in my element and I could do that and mess with that and play with that and have a good time. Whereas when people ask me… and people ask me crazy things sometimes. Like, “tell us about what your day is like”. And it’s like, “My day is utter chaos. You don’t ever want your day to be like my day.”

*laughter*

Geez, that would be a terrible thing! You know. So yeah I’m not good at talking about any of that. The only thing that I’m good at talking about is code, so I try and stick with that.

AVDI: You know, I think that’s like one of the most challenging things to do and you nail it. You completely nailed it, which is inspire people with code. I mean it’s one thing to talk about ideals and stuff like that, but to actually put code up in the screen and help people walk away and say, “Wow I feel like I wanna go do something awesome.” That’s a hell of a thing.

I do think there are other talk types that I have seen. I mean there is kind of the patterns and practices talk, which isn’t about a particular technology but it is about ways of writing code better. There is also the “Soft Talk”, which is kind of like a whole other area of like people talking about improving their lives in some way.

JOSH: Yeah I call that “Motivational Speaking” talks. And it’s interesting to see when people cross the line to go from technical speaking to motivational speaking. David Heinemeier Hansen did that at RailsConf a couple of years ago. He got up there and he is like, “We got all these extra time because we use Rails.” So how do we spend  that? Do we go to Vegas and indulge?

JAMES: No, we drive race cars

JOSH: Yes.

*laughter*

Right. So anyway that was an interesting example of motivational speaking there.

AVDI: There is one more talk type (which I usually don’t particularly enjoy) which is the “Check Out My New Library” talk.

*laughter*

I don’t wanna too many people’s feelings with this because you know what, you got up on stage and that is freaking awesome.

JAMES: You know what, those make great lightning talks.

AVDI: Absolutely. I completely agree with that. That’s in so many “check out my now gems” talk that would have made just a fantastic lightning talk. But if you wanna show your gem, that’s fine but pick a gem that you have been using in production and then structure your talk around the major problem that you have solved by using it, not around the gem itself.

JAMES: That is a great point. It is okay to talk about other people’s gems. One way I have done that in the past is finding overriding themes. So like one year I did ridiculously fast programs in Ruby and  then I showed gems in array and stuff like that where you can just take unbelievable short cuts and do massive  processing in Ruby very quickly, (which everybody says Ruby is slow and you can’t do that) so that makes for interesting list.

CHUCK: So now that you now have kind of an idea of some of the types of talks you can give, how does that inform he topic or does the topic inform this or you kind of wind up picking both at the same time?

JOSH: I think that given people’s “disposition”, I think they would be naturally drawn to particular type of talks. Some people are more keynoters, some people are more “nuts and bolts how-to”. Like James says, he really likes, “here’s how to program”. So I don’t think that picking the type of the talk is going to be too difficult for people. I think they would be naturally drawn towards one particular type but the topic I’d say, go with what you know or what you wanna learn. Either way it should be something you are really interested in.

AVDI: Yeah and other people to be interested in that and what to pick for the talk in the conference, I think that is really more in how you present it. Like, how what your abstract for the talks looks like. Sad to say, what the title is can actually have a big impact. You can make pretty much every topic interesting. I think the main trick is don’t talk about the topic; talk about what problems you are going to solve with the topic. Get people to identify with the issues that you had that made you interested in the first place and tell them that you are going to talk about in how you solved it.

JOSH: I think the trick to making any talk interesting is that you are telling a story.

AVDI: Yes.

CHUCK: That makes sense. And I guess you can just spell that out in the abstract when you answer call for proposals.

JAMES: The abstract is actually kind of key the whole thing. Imagine a group of people are going to sit down somewhere, lay all these papers out in front of them and read through them and decide what they wanna build their conference out of. I’m not making that up. That is literally how we did it at RubyConf.

JOSH: I just did this very recently at Golden Gate Ruby Conference. We had about fifty proposals that we have to read through and we did in on a computer, not on a table but it was basically the same thing. We got to look through all these things and the descriptions or the abstracts, sometimes they were tantalizingly close to something that we wanted, but the abstract didn’t sell the talk enough. And the point of doing a talk is you get up there to sell an idea. You are standing in front of a room and there are a couple of hundreds of people and you got to get up there and sell your idea and convince them, sitting  in that chair in a half an hour or 45 minutes was worth their time and the idea that you are communicating has the value. That is a sales job.  And if you can’t write 100 or 200 words and convenience me and sell me an idea that you should be allowed to make the talk, then you probably cannot stand up in front of the room sell that idea to the room.

AVDI: Yeah and it’s worth noting here that you should not be like writing that whole talk and then writing the abstract like, “Oh man, now I have to sell it.” Write that abstract first. Write why that talk is important to you and why people should be interested and submit that. Don’t devote a ton of time to talk itself until somebody says, “Yeah, that is interesting.” and that actually gives you the opportunity to write a number of abstracts about the different things  that you are interested in and see what catches on.

JOSH: Well Avdi,  I think that especially when you are beginning  and starting out speaking, I think there is a fair amount of trepidation that people feel that if they write an abstract and they submit that and they get accepted, then they are like, “Oh crap! I got to do the talk now” (which I have to admit is typically my reaction.)

AVDI: It’s terrifying right? As a relatively recent speaker, I was there very recently and I completely agree but I guess…

JOSH: Yeah, but the thing is don’t be afraid to do that. And you are right,  you don’t wanna sit down and write the talk and then say “Okay, now I’m going to write and abstract about it and I send that out”  because that is safer. Take a damn risk, or put yourself out there because you are going to have to take a risk when you get up at the podium.

AVDI: And here’s what it boil down to; you got to write the talk. If you get that acceptance… you know,  you had that job where you probably had that job once when you got in even as an incredibly inexperienced junior programmer (however you got the job), there you are with people looking at you expecting you to be a professional programmer and you have no idea what you are doing. You stayed up all night and got code out and it worked. (I think we all probably had that experience). So it’s going to be the same way; you got that talk acceptance and you got to write the talk. It’s going to happen.

CHUCK: One other thing that I have noticed too is if you write the talk up front… let me back up a little bit, how many of you guys have actually had your talk finished within a couple of weeks of giving the talk to where you made no changes after that?

*laughter*

I mean for me, it’s the same way of writing the talk. For me if you write the whole thing upfront and then write the abstract, you are going to be talking to people about your upcoming topic, you are going to be thinking about it, you are going  to be reading about it and you are going to change it.

JOSH: Even if I have given the talk before I change it.

CHUCK: Absolutely. And that I another topic that came up here is, can you give the same topic more than one conference? Well yeah, but usually end up tweaking it a little bit so you give a little bit different story at the conference. But anyway, I did a webinar that people actually paid for last week and I was changing it right up until I fired it up. And it’s the same way with your talk. So really, what you end up writing abstract for and what you actually present may wind up being a little bit different just because you are better informed as things go along. And so it’s just makes sense to me to kind of do all the work upfront and turn around and write the abstract. You want know that you are going to be speaking with the topic and then share in the expertise with the people around you and talk to them about the topic.

AVDI: And the flipside of this is that if you don’t get that acceptance, you are not going to write it. And I think, you might have the greatest intentions in the world, but we are all busy people and I never ever, ever would have written the Exceptional Ruby Talk if I had not gotten the acceptance for it. I learned a tremendous amount. I was panicky; now I have to be an expert on exceptions and error handling, so I did this huge amount of research. Realistically, that would not have happened. I would not have been able to prioritize it by saying “I have to do this talk”. It has to happen. So, it’s such a fantastic motivator.

JAMES: Yeah it’s a great way to challenge yourselves, right? Just like what Avdi said, “Okay I’m going to do this now. People are going to be asking questions.” And you do need to look into your topic and stuff but don’t let that to be totally overwhelming to you either. Your long conference talks are generally 45-50 minutes. That’s not very much time. I know that it sounds like a long time, but you can do a very deep dive in 45-50 minutes. You don’t have to know everything inside and out. Even in Q&A, it’s totally fine to say something like, “I don’t know. I’ll get back to you”, “I’ll look that up”, “I don’t know”.

CHUCK: That is way better than making up the answer.

JAMES: Right.

CHUCK: “Let’s see, I’m standing in front of a whole bunch of people. Some are smarter than me and I’m going to make something up.”

JAMES: You don’t have to do that. Too many things I wanted to say about topic selection while we are still on that area. Avoid totally, totally, mainstream stuff. You think, “I know! I’ll give a talk on TDD!” It’s like you and 500 other guys. If you wanna give a talk on TDD, it needs to be, “You know what, you are all doing TDD wrong and let me tell you why”.

JOSH: And it’s not just giving the talk. It’s getting the talk selected. So, I went through this on GoGaRuCo and we had like 48 talks proposals submitted. Probably 8 to 10 of them were testing related talks and we are really bored with testing talks. We’ve seen so many of them. After Corey Haines is doing his Fast Rails Tests last year, it’s like hard to beat that.

JAMES: Exactly. If you are going to give a testing talk, it needs to be better than all  the ones that come before it. Since there is about 600 of them, you need to watch on Confreaks to make sure that happens.

JOSH: So we accepted one talk about testing and it was about “why tests are like mathematical proofs”.

JAMES: Yeah that is kind of cool.

CHUCK: Yeah it sounds interesting.

JOSH: It was a really different take on what testing is about and I’m really looking forward to seeing the talk. So it’s like what James said, you wanna put on tweaks on it because it’s like if people have been talking about these stuff for ages, what are you going to say about it that is new? Well, find something new. There is always something new to say about the topic.

CHUCK: I have another question about topic selection that I wanna ask and that is how much credit do you people get for being somewhat well known or at least known in that particular area? So for example, Avdi submitted a talk and the title was “Why Chewing Gum is Fun”.  I mean, how likely is he to be accepted just based on the fact that people have seen him he speak and do something interesting with it?

AVDI: To be fair, I’m internationally renowned for my gum chewing .

CHUCK: Yes you are.

JAMES: And basketball playing apparently.

*laughter*

CHUCK: We need one of those fancy headbands and ankle bands.

JAMES:  This is actually own of my pet peeves. The actual answer to your question is that the names count a lot. And I think that’s horrible and should not happen. In fact, I would encourage conference organizers to make an initial pass over the content with no names.

JOSH: We did that this year.

JAMES: That is way better.

JOSH: Well it’s better for a couple of reasons. I actually got this idea from Eric Reis, because he was talking about screening resumes that way for his company. And he found that the initial read through of resumes, when he did it blinded to the identity of who it is about, (like removing all the name and other cues about identity) he found that he selected a lot more women as interview candidates.

 JAMES: You wanted not had any preconceived notions and the problem is the names give you way too many.

JOSH: Yes. So it’s interesting when I did that, I found that we were would pick a really good range people but we also had a lot of women show up when we did that. So it’s like crazy how we all these unconscious biases that’s why they are unconscious right?  You don’t know that they are there. So it’s great to have things like James said you blind yourself to their identity of the proposer and you get a really interesting balance to the program that way.

CHUCK: So that leads me to two questions. The first one is; don’t conference organizers want to bring in at least a couple of well-known people to draw the crowd in?

JOSH: Sure. But you very often invite those people directly. There’s a point that you get to as a notorious speaker, where you get to the point where you are not submitting proposals anymore, conferences are coming to you and asking you to speak.

CHUCK: Okay and the other question is, can you then increase your odds of being selected by doing things like blogging and tweeting and building your personal brand so that other people can recognize your name when it comes up in the proposal to speak?

JOSH: You can definitely do that and it definitely actually works. I’ve been on conference selection committees where it was just somebody’s name and the abstract was, “I don’t know. I’ll think of something interesting” and they took it!

*laughter*

CHUCK: No way.

JAMES: Yeah. I voted against him even though even though I know that person and I knew they were good for it. I voted against anything like that. But yes, it definitely works. I would encourage you, while that is great, you should blog, and you should build your brand and all that. Don’t do that to get accepted in conferences. Just do that because it’s a great idea. When you worry about being getting accepted in a conference, submit a good abstract. That is about 9-10ths of it. If that abstract is something that you as a Rubyists read through and go, “Crap, that sounds cool!”, you are in. That’s it.  That’s the thing.

JOSH:  I can’t tell you how many of the abstracts that I got for my conference that were tantalizing. They seemed like they could have been good talk, but I don’t have time to email 30 people and say, “give me more information about the talk you wanna give”. I had time to email about three people to do that and I did. So I pick the ones that I thought was worth following up on to get some more information but you can’t do that with 30 people. When you are submitting a talk proposal, put everything in there that you wanna say. Don’t wait for them to come back to you.

CHUCK: Right.

JAMES: Think of it as a pitch. And the idea of a pitch is you wanna explain the pain somebody is having and then how you are going to solve that for them. Like, “Oh, I know you guys have been confused by…” or “Oh, I know you have trouble with scaling” or whatever, all those typical pain. You pick a pain, you felt this, basically. You start there and then like, “Well, let me show you how you solve that by blah, blah, blah…” and that’s a great pitch

AVDI: And conferences put these online so you go and read some of the ones that have been accepted.

JOSH: Can we talk about something else than topics right now?

JAMES: Can we do one more take on topics because I’ve been trying  to get it in and haven’t gotten in.

JOSH: Be my guest.

JAMES: I promise it’s going to be fast. Just one last tip, if you wanna know if… I usually have like three ideas and I wanna know which one is the best one, just explain them to your wife. That’s really all it takes. Or anybody who has no idea what you are talking about. Because and you have to like kind of sell them on it, there is almost always one who get animated on, you start going down sub branches and, but then I can do this or if there is anyone that I am explaining to my wife and I start cracking up, that’s the one I pick.

*laughter*

CHUCK: Nice!

AVDI: That’s really good.

JOSH: The other thing is I guess don’t be afraid to submit a couple of ideas.

CHUCK: To the same conference you mean?

JOSH: Yeah. If they allow you to do that, feel free.  I’ve got a bunch of people who submitted multiple ideas and sometimes it’s been hard to pick between two for the same person.

CHUCK: Just make them speak twice.

JOSH: Yeah.

JAMES: They usually won’t take both just because it’s not great to have the same speaker up there again.

JOSH: I never do that.

JAMES: Right, yeah but if you have two ideas and you can’t decide between them, you can just toss the decision to them. right?

JOSH: Yeah.

CHUCK: One other thing that I wanna get into that they have put in to this question is, they want to know what you put into the conference slide. So, should you have a lot code samples, like coding pictures of kittens?

JOSH: I would recommend against live coding. The thing that I like to see instead of live coding (and Gary Bernhardt did a great job with this in Mountain West earlier this year) is do a little QuickTime movie or screen capture of you doing the live coding and play that as part of your talk.

AVDI: Yeah if Gary Bernhardt pre-records his live coding, then you should probably prerecord your live coding.

*laughter*

JAMES: That is exactly right. So I will say that live coding is a super advanced technique. And I have seen if used well and I loved the talk, but that is very hard and your chances of doing that is very bad.

JOSH: The most amazing live coding I ever saw was Nick Kalin (who did it at RailsConf like, five years ago or something) and it was the last talk of the whole conference so a lot of people missed it. He had prepared for this where he had a GitRepo which had every step along the way, he captured as a different branch with the Repo, so if he got in trouble as he was doing live coding he can just check out a branch and it would be okay.

CHUCK: Yeah I have two stories on this. The first one is basically I did the same thing at Ruby Web Conference two years ago. That’s what I did. I just had it in stages and so I would demonstrate something so if I go into trouble I would just check out the next stage and say this is what it would look like and it’s okay to do that.

JOSH: Don’t fly without a net.

CHUCK: Yeah and the sad example is I went and I spoke at DevTeach in North America over here in Vancouver in May. I was showing people how they can like build a blog I like ten minutes with Rails and I missed a Gem and is couldn’t get it to install because the Wi-Fi wasn’t working.

AVDI: Oh no.

CHUCK: Yeah. So it isn’t necessarily even your ability to do live coding because trust me, I’ve recorded dozens of screencasts and I’m really comfortable in coding in front of people and coding in front of the, But you just can’t account for that kind of thing. You are way better off making the video and just playing it. Then either talking your way through it or talking your way through it in the video and then just sitting there and just watching it.

JOSH: So what I wanted to talk about next is the stakes to avoid and one of them is requiring internet access.

JAMES: Yeah see that all that time by so many people who ought to know better.

*laughter*

You step into a room with 300 geeks. The average geek is carrying 3 devices that are connected to the internet.

CHUCK: Only three?

JAMES: They are trying to use it. It’s no way. Do not do that.

CHUCK: Yeah and even if they have prioritized speaker wireless, you still can’t count on it.

JOSH: Yeah and who knows what the bandwidth is or the port filtering and what have you. Just don’t rely on the internet being there. If you have to clone your server and run it locally on your box so you can just talk right there.

CHUCK: So if we are talking about the mistakes to make or not to make, if you have a light colored slide and a light colored font, I am going to leave dark colored bruises all over your freaking face, okay? Because I can’t read it!

*laughter*

AVDI: Yeah, contrast is key!

JAMES: It is important to pick. I have definitely done that mistake before I have a darkish slide, an d a darkish font and when I got it in the dark room, it was just black.

CHUCK: It looks great look on your LCD monitor and it looks TERRIBLE on the screen.

JOSH: So here’s a pro tip around that and that’s ask the conference organizer what the setup of the room is going to be like. Is it going to be high ambient lighting or low ambient lighting? What kind of projector is it? What are the dimensions of the projector so you can build your slides on the native resolution?

JAMES:  That said, I see a lot of people recommend or using really, really, really bright backgrounds. Don’t do that either. Especially not white because white is tough on the eyes.

JOSH: It depends on the lighting conditions of the room. If the room that has a lot of light, having a white background I think is better. And then put the dark text in the white background. If you are in a room where the lighting is dim, you wanna do it like movies do, where there is a dark background of light text because like you said, its harsh on the eyes in a dark room

JAMES: Yeah I think that’s true. Even it a light, light room though, I mean, go for beige or something, just enough that it’s not so pounding.

JOSH: Okay that is a good point.

AVDI: I have a tip about code samples. I mean, the obvious thing is don’t put too much code on the slide because people are going  to be at the back of the room and they won’t be able to see it and its going to be smaller than you think. But more specifically, go through your talk, practice the talk and if at any point you are tempted to pull out your laser and pointer and point out at a piece of code on the screen, put  less code on that slide.

JAMES: I think I apply this rule every time.

AVDI: Make your samples down to the point that you have no need to point out any code that you are talking about.

JOSH: Or you do that it Yehuda style, where he does the highlighting in the slide itself.

AVDI: Well that’s fine too. That kind of falls under the same rule. I mean, either you have so  little that it’s obvious what you are talking about or you have some way of highlighting it without actually pointing at it but yeah, don’t…

JAMES: Why is that Yehuda style? I did that way before. I don’t get that.

*laughter*

CHUCK: The James-Yehuda Style

JAMES: Yeah what the heck man, come on.

JOSH: Yeah, sorry man.

CHUCK: Do it the Gray way.

JOSH: One other newbie mistakes…

JAMES: Do not write down your speech, carry the piece of paper to the podium and read it.

*laughter*

Never, ever, ever!

CHUCK: That’s right you put your whole speech on your slides and read it off the slides instead.

*laughter*

JAMES: Yeah don’t do that either. Don’t read slides!

JOSH: We can do a whole hour just on how to present and things like that. I think that there are a lot of resources out there that people look at so maybe we should avoid telling people how to be a presenter.

AVDI: I wanna present like a counterpoint to all of those though. First, speak. Worry about like all the rules about how to do a good talk. Maybe the second time you do your talk or the second talk that you write or something like that. I just wanna say don’t freak out like the way you understand all these things before your talk will ever be good enough to go to  a conference. Just speak. Just go to the abstracts out there.

JAMES: Yeah you are going to figure it out as you go. I’ve definitely given talks where it was just like, “Oh, this one is a total crap we’ll find out in a few days if this was idea or bad idea.”

AVDI: I violate one of the primary rules; I say “uhm” constantly. It’s a  personal speech failing and everybody  dings me for it in all the talks I do. I know I do it, I’m trying to stop, but when I was first prepping my first talk, I realize that I was going to do that and I had to just make peace with it. I was like,  if I focus on stuff like these, I’m never going to do it.

CHUCK: You know Avdi, I never say uhm, you know, never say uhm, you know…

JOSH: Okay, so getting on the conference. So how many talks all of us spoke in conferences. I don’t think any of us a conference is the first place where we give the talk. So what was the path that you took to get to a conference and how many talks did you do? User groups or company meetings or what have you before you got to a conference?

JAMES: I definitely think that user groups are the ideal training ground. I mean, you got people there that are interested in the topic and it’s usually a small intimate group, they generally give you a lot of great feedback and interact with you heavily afterwards and stuff. I can’t think of a better place than to try something like a user group.

CHUCK: Yeah especially if you ask for the feedback. I find that in the user groups, a lot of times there are just like “great job” or whatever and they just ask you questions afterwards. But if you ask them for the feedback, just tell them, “I wanna start speaking at conferences and I’d really like feedback “, they will give it to you. But a lot of times, they are very forgiving and they will just let you go.

JOSH: It’s also a good place to preview a talk if you are working on a talk in a conference. It’s great to do it in front of like 10-20 people, just deliver the talk and get their feedback. Sometimes just even doing the talk in front of other people you can feel yourself what is working and what isn’t.

CHUCK: Yeah, that kind of brings up a good point, even after you speak is rehearse the talk. But anyway that is a terrific way to go. But a lot of time, as you is giving the talk, you will figure out where the sticky points are and then you make a note in your speaking notes. “Okay, make sure that you blah”, “Don’t do this”, “Clarify this point on the slide”. You know, you do all those kind of stuff too.

JAMES: Yeah I can absolutely tell people who do and don’t rehearse. Now, I will say that it works for some people. I’m a huge rehearse I cannot get up there. The first time I give my talk its usually 6 hours long and everybody fell asleep and its terrible and I said everything wrong. So if you saw it on the first time, you would kill me. So I have to practice exactly the way I want it.

Now I will say Glenn Vandenberg, I love watching him speak and he’s not a big practicer. He is generally working on his talk right up to close to speak each time and then he just gets up there and does it. But, he is so good at making it seem like he’s just having a casual conversation with you and I really like that but I can’t do that because I just don’t have that skill and I screw it up so I have to practice.

JOSH: So I think that preparation is the essence of spontaneity.

JAMES: Yeah right kind of. Although when I watch mine I feel like they are more rehearsed and I don’t feel like that thing where I am just like having a conversation with you.

JOSH: For me it’s a range. It’s like if I have enough time preparing for the talk and I can internalize everything that I wanna say, then I can shift it around and re-assemble it and decide where I wanna emphasize depending on how it’s going in the moment.

JAMES: I do find that I can over prepare. Over the years I’ve actually scaled back and now I try to do it perfect number of times. When I am starting to get comfortable with it and I actually like it if my last preparation is terrible, because  then usually the next one is pretty good. So, I do that as the conference. But it needs to be enough where I know the material, but if I over prepare, then I find that I skip things because I thought, “oh they know that” because I know that because I said it 600 times to myself. So, don’t do that.

CHUCK: Alright so one other thing that I wanted to come up with real quick and talk about was Josh sent around this “Gist”.

JOSH: Oh yeah. The speaker thing from Paul Irish.

CHUCK: Yeah.

JAMES: Okay but before we move to that, can we address the one most important question that we ignore?

CHUCK: What’s that?

JOSH: How to deal with “that guy”?

JAMES: No its picture of funny kittens.

JOSH: Oh right, okay.

CHUCK: That does lead into the question I have though and that is that in a lot of cases, you are making a point so you put all your major points you wanna hit in your speaker notes, you have a couple of words on there and then you have something. Where do you get those pictures from?

*laughter*

JAMES: Google! You can find anything in the internet. No, but it is actually a good point. Should you just like take your content, put it on there and get that or should you be funny and entertaining? I think you should be funny and entertaining. I really do. If you could do that at all, go for it.

JOSH: Yeah, there is a lot of studies that say that people’s attention span is about 5 minutes. If you don’t interject something to get their attention, it will wander. They will be reading their Twitter on their iPhone.

CHUCK: I think those studies are optimistic.

*laughter*

JOSH: What were we talking about? Yeah if we talk about “Brain Rules”…

JAMES: John Medina.

JOSH: Yeah. So he talks about that a lot and how effective it is.  You got to scare people or make them think about sex every five minutes or they can’t hear your talk.

JAMES: He actually does that. I think with an interview with Geoffrey Grosenbach way back when on RailsCasts or whatever.

JOSH: Yeah.

JAMES: Yeah at one point he has been talking for a while and then he just stops and tries to scare the crap out of Geoffrey at one point and its hilarious. It is great. It is a great thing. If you see a bunch of my talks, you know that I usually have two things; whatever I’m actually trying to talk about and then the other one that I’m constantly distracting.

JOSH: Which is Firefly.

JAMES: Yeah firefly or some video game or TV show or photos from my trip to Japan.

JOSH: Yeah it’s like the A plot line and the B plot line in an episode of the Star Trek Next Generation.

JAMES: Exactly. Have to have the B plotline right?

JOSH: Here’s stuff that you hear all the time to the point where it becomes cliché which is you always wanna open with a joke.

JAMES: I do that though.

JOSH: I think the one value of opening with a joke is that, if you can get to a point where you can make that joke, you are now more relaxed and can deliver a better talk.

JAMES: Yeah it’s the ice breaker right? Its starts everybody laughing.

JOSH: Although it can backfire. I tried that in a group of 6 last month and nobody cracked a smile.

AVDI: Oh.

JAMES: Ouch.

JOSH: Yeah I have done the talk a day before in a room and so everybody was like “hahahaha” and then I did it the next day in front of all these healthcare suits and they were like “eeerrrrrrr”

*laughter*

JAMES: That’s when it’s going to be like, “Okay. Never mind we are not doing this. We are calling the whole thing off.”

JOSH: Yeah. So open conference expectations. I’ve attend conferences, I’ve spoke in conferences, I’ve organized conferences the only thing I haven’t done is sponsor conferences. I think most of  us are in that boat.

AVDI: I haven’t organized conference.

JAMES: Don’t do it!

*laughter*

You are so young and you have your whole life ahead of you. Don’t do it!

*laughter*

CHUCK: Keep yourself! Don’t sell it!

JOSH: It’s so true. But as a speaker I read through these stuff and I totally get where they are coming and as a conference organizer, I got extremely angry reading this.

AVDI: So probably let’s have some points that are in this document.

JAMES: Hit the ones you wanna talk about. I like some of them.

JOSH: In that shell, what they said was, “be professional with how you run your conference and be professional with how you work with your speakers”. No speaker wants to show up and do the talk in a garage to a bunch of people sitting on the floor, with projecting the screen on the concrete wall and no sound system. That would be crap. So a lot of the points they made were just really good, but the thing that I got really iffy for me was all the money stuff that they talked about.

JAMES: That is exactly what bothered me. Yes.

JOSH: There were a lot of basically demands for “you have to pay us to come to speak at your conference”, “you have to pay us for our travel and our lodging and gives us an honorary”..

CHUCK: I kind of get the impression that some of this was like, if your event is a low cost event, then obviously you are not going to be able to need to do some of those things.

JOSH: Yeah so that’s the thing. If you are talking about a great big conference, then sure a lot of these stuff makes sense but if it is a great big conference, then you probably don’t have to make these points with conference organizers.

CHUCK: Right.

JOSH: They are running a big professional conference. They gotten there by doing their conference and they know what they are doing. So speaking to small regional conference organizers, this is terrible.

AVDI: I don’t know. Like, my experiences with big conferences has been like, you know the conferences that have been amazingly kind to me and help me out with travel expenses have largely been the smaller regional ones, not the biggest ones.

JOSH: Yeah we try and do that for GoGaRuCo. We try and help speakers in their travel when they are really in need.

AVDI: You’d think the big conferences would get these stuff but, I don’t know.

JOSH: Yeah well,  okay maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about there. But, certainly for small conferences, meeting many these requirements would be challenging. You really don’t know what the cost of the conference are versus how much money they are taking in.

CHUCK: Right.

AVDI: Yeah.

JOSH: GoGaRuCo, we charge a fair amount for tickets but we are in San Francisco and the costs of putting on a conference are absurd.

CHUCK: Yeah that does vary from place to place.

AVDI:  I’ll say this about travel reimbursements though. I mean, if you want to encourage people other than the big names to speak at your event, then that’s one of the ways to do it is to have some kind of travel reimbursement. Because if somebody is not a big name, there’s less chance that they are going to be either afford the travel themselves or get sponsored to do the travel themselves

JAMES: See I kind of find that interesting because I would think that if you look at the speakers that a large portion of them A. work for a company that is helping them get to this conference, or B. are freelancers. Guys like me, we don’t care. We are right in the whole thing off, man.

AVDI: I don’t understand how this write off thing works. It’s not like you get the money back.

CHUCK: You get your tax rate as a discount is what you are getting.

JAMES: It was very well in that I basically use it to travel there and stay there a while and then usually see some place. So I make sure I get something out of it.

JOSH: So I have a counterpoint to this Gist and that’s a year of two ago, (I wrote a pro tips for conference speakers and put on my blog and unfortunately Dream Host screwed up my blog and I haven’t fixed  it yet so I can’t provide a direct link to it. We’ll get it in the show notes somehow.)  It was my advice on speakers on how to work well with the conference staff. In this gist, there are conference expectations they say, “Oh here is what we are going to promise the conferences in return”. Okay what they promised was like eh? I would consider them minimum from what they are promising.

I go through a list  a list of 15 things that really from my perspective as a conference organizer, make my life much easier with working with speakers. I tell you hurting cats, totally a walk in a park than working with a bunch of speakers at conference. Speakers, they are like busy people and they got stuff going on and a lot of them don’t have the best email correspondent skills. And these days email isn’t the number one channel for people. A lot of people, you got to talk to them are on Twitter or Facebook or Skype or who knows what. So the number one thing is just be responsive to communications with the conference staff.

CHUCK: So Josh, when you email me, you just don’t want me to reply on and say “Yup”?

JAMES: Yeah whatever dude.

JOSH: Yeah ignore half my email and never come back to me, whatever.

JAMES: There was one cool point in this document about what we can do in return as speakers  that I think is relevant to this conversation and that is, remember that your actual talk 30-45 minutes or whatever is actually  a pretty small part of what you are doing. You are being there and being a part of speakers that are there. People love to go up and interact with those speakers especially if you struck a chord with them. They wanna come up and tell you, “Oh man, I’m so glad you did that! In my work last year we did blah, blah, blah” and you really need to be there for that  and listen to that and nod your head and then smile and interact and talk to those people because for them that makes the experience. That they have a good time and interact with you and you meet people that way that sometimes you did stay in touch with or end up talking to about something else later. So its win-win for both of you, but remember your presenting part that’s part of what you are there to do but it is not all of it.

JOSH: That’s true and I think many new speakers one of the things that they get surprised by is how eager people who sell their talk are, to interact with them afterward. It’s like suddenly you have fans and they wanna come talk to you and they wanna thank you for your time and whatever else you did.

JAMES: So this is like true story; my wife Dana gave a speech on one of the Ruby Mountain West Conferences and I can’t remember when, like 2009 or something like at. She gave a little talk on I think it was reporting or regular expressions.

CHUCK: It was regular expressions. I was there.

JAMES: OK regular expressions. So she gave that talk and I was at Mountain West and I guess some guy wanted to talk to her after that and just couldn’t hook up with her. So then like a year later, we are in Japan at a conference and the same guy is there. And he finally tracks her down to like, “I’m so glad you gave that Mountain West talk. I really loved it”. And she was like, “Okay this guys is, like, stalking me”.

CHUCK: It was a lightning talk. It wasn’t even a full on talk.

JAMES: No, it was really cool. But it’s just people really wanna connect and tell you than they enjoyed that or that mean something to them and they used it in such and such situations is great part of it.

CHUCK: Alright we need to get into the picks. Is there anything else you wanna talk about before we do that?

JOSH: I have one thing but maybe you wanna pick too but go ahead.

AVDI: I just have one reaction to this document which is that, you know I agree that a lot of these stuffs are nice to have rather than you must have this or we are going to stalk away in a huff. But, I was just thinking about back in the conferences that I have gone to and there are a few that they treated me so nicely in various ways as a speaker that I couldn’t help but tell people that they totally go to this conference and talk them up. It wasn’t like conscious calculation of like, “I wanna talk at this conference over another”. I was just like, they made me happy and I wanted to talk about them. So you don’t have to follow a set of rules that almost like a writer for all conferences speakers, but it seems like it makes sense to try and delight your speakers. I mean delight your attendees first but then try to delight your speakers in some way because they are going to go out and they are going to be evangelist for your conference.

CHUCK: That’s true.

JAMES: I agree.

CHUCK: I found that the conferences that I talk to the people most about are the conferences that I had the best time at.

JAMES: In my experience, the regional conferences probably my top three and obviously these are mainly just because they are kind of close to me geographically but Lone Star, Mountain West and Ruby Midwest have all treated me just great. Its exactly right that if a conference treats you well then encourages you to do more for them.

JOSH: Yeah we definitely try and do that with GoGaRuCo. We have special speakers flag, we always try and do honorary or at least we have in the last year or two. Speaker dinners, all that.

AVDI: It’s the little things. Like if there is somebody at the podium to tell me when to start talking rather than I just have to go up there and figure it out.

JOSH: So I have one more thing and if you guys don’t wanna talk about it, that’s okay but its “that guy”.

CHUCK: Oh you mean the guy in the audience that won’t shut up?

JOSH: Yeah. So I think, maybe it’s not a given but I think that it should be given that speakers should be respectful of the audience. You don’t wanna get up there and insult your audience or say things that are going to make them freak out or feel uncomfortable or walk out of the room. And I’ve seen crap like that happen way too often. But on the other side, you are going to every now and then have to deal with someone who is in the audience interacting with you in an unpleasant way. Sometimes it’s somebody who thinks he knows the topic more than you or maybe he really does know the topic more than you.

JAMES: So one of the advantages of being like super rehearsed is, I usually go fast enough that people don’t feel comfortable interrupting me and I can just skip Q&A all together so I get to ignore all the jerks.

*laughter*

JOSH: That’s one way of doing it.

JAMES: That’s one way yeah. No seriously, if I’m doing an Q&A, it’s obvious we are disagreeing or something is going wrong, then I say, “let’s discuss this after.”

CHUCK: A lot of times too you have to be mindful of that just for the sake of getting out of the way so the next speaker can come up and set up. So you really have a good excuse by just telling them you don’t wanna time over and you wanna make sure that everybody gets a chance to speak. So, if there are any other questions. And another good way of disarming that too is, “if you have any more questions, I’ll talk to you afterwards but I wanna make sure I answer everybody else’s question too” in that way you are kind of putting them off so it’s not, “I don’t really talk to you”, “I don’t really wanna argue with over the podium” and its more of a, “lets continue this conversation, but let’s be fair to everybody else.”

JOSH: Right and then if none of that works, you can always just deliver the line. “Yeah, I remember when I had my first beer.”

*laughter*

JAMES: I don’t know if I would go with that technique, but that is interesting

CHUCK: Yeah, I’ve also seen in one or two cases where somebody was being rather aggressive with the speaker and the conference organizer was in the room and a lot of the times they have actually come up and just kind of ended the session early just to bail them out.

JOSH: Okay so I think that is enough about “that guy”.

JAMES: Let’s do picks!

CHUCK: Alright. Let’s make Avdi go first. Avdi what are your picks?

AVDI: Actually, I think I change my picks a bit. I don’t know if somebody has done this before, but since we are talking about speaking on conferences, there is a service called Lanyrd.com. It has listings of all kinds of conferences. If you sign in to it with your various social networks, you can tell what your friends and people that you are interested in are going to. And as a speaker, it can usually tell you when the CFPs open, (Call For Proposal) open for so you can kind of subscribe to the conference you are interested in and see when the CFP opens up. This is a great way to keep track of that because I don’t know about other people but I am terrible about totally missing CFPS. Yeah that’s a pretty handy service.

This is less of a pick and more of an assignment. It is after you get done with this episode and finish whatever you are listening to, go and write down three ideas for subjects that you are interested in or wanna learn more about or passionate about telling people about for that you might speak on some time. Put that on a safe place and then when that CFP for the conference you are interested in, rolls around pull them back out and develop them into a couple of paragraphs, describing this topic that you wanna talk about. Go do that right now. Everybody should try this speaking thing. There is really no downside to it besides for the stress of having to get those slides done by the time that you actually get on stage but you learn things, you learn to interact with people better, you learn to express your ideas better it’s just go do it.

I guess I’ll do a beer pick too. There is a beer called “Smooth Hoperator”

*laughter*

It is by Stoudts Brewing Company not to be confused with the type  of beer. Its Stoudts with the “dt” on the end. And I’m told that this is actually a combination of an ipa and a Doppelbock. That’s sounds just gimmicky but that actually works out to a really, really well balanced beer. I’ve really been enjoying that.

JOSH: Is there a site that lists like the best funny beer names?

*laughter*

AVDI: There is going to be a long list.

CHUCK: I’m going to put that in the show notes. I didn’t find the link directly to that beer, I did find a link through to beer advocate. Anyway James what are your picks?

JAMES: I’ve got a couple. First of all, I think I’m like one of the last people to figure this out, but just in case there is like a guy or two behind me, Amazon has this Instant Video thing and it is kind of cool. And the reason it’s kind of cool is, you probably already  had Amazon Prime anyway for because we have recommended it on the past or you figured out that attacks on people having found things on Prime things like that. Anyways, you should definitely have Prime. If you do have Prime, then it turns out that you have access to like a 5th  of Amazon’s instant videos for free. It’s usually older stuff but, if you are like me and you like to go watch old TV series or whatever. Right now, I’m working my way through Fringe (which isn’t that old) but you can just get that on Amazon’s Instant Videos. In my case I just went to my PlayStation and there is already a thing for it in the menus then I have to download things, set up and credentials and then that was it. I was streaming Fringe in HD to my TV. So truly great. If you don’t mind paying for shows, then you can watch really current stuff. It often has things like Breaking Bad (I think) the night or the next day after they air.  So, you can watch really current stuff with it too. So, Amazon Instant Videos, pretty cool stuff.

The other pick this time is, its time for a new Mac operating system again! Came out today I think or whenever…

JOSH: Today.

JAMES: Yeah today and whenever it’s time for a new Mac operating system, the first thing I do is not NOT go download the new Mac operating system. I go read the Ars Technical Review over Mac operating system. If you have never read these, these are amazing. Usually over 20 pages of extremely detailed break down of the changes in the operating system. Sometimes from very high-level to  how they are thinking about things, down to, “Darn it! Why won’t this terminal wont render my favorite font directly who do I have to strangle?”, that kind of things.

CHUCK: It tells you who to strangle? Sweet!

JAMES: It’s very interesting stuff. You may not know this if you are within quasi recent like the Mac platform but in the older days Apple had a very detailed human interface guidelines rules that applications had to follow to create these kind of consistent thought to about how computers work and stuff like that. That’s largely been set aside by the recent generation and these articles are about as close as you can get to unravelling what the current thinking behind an operating system design. So, they are very interesting mean. I finally help me understand my OS better, figure out some things I didn’t know stuff and like that. So I really encourage you to read them.

Also I it usually warns me when I need to back off the updating for a while. I know Josh always recommend for at least a “.1” release but some of them like Lion was particularly painful in several areas and I only recently updated it. I had like backed off with this because there will be a lot of pain points. Anyways,  I find them helpful and definitely recommend reading them. That’s it. Those are my picks.

CHUCK: Nice

JOSH: Apple were quality is .1.. 1…

CHUCK: Alright, Josh what are your picks? Your picks .1… .1…

JOSH: Yeah thank you. So my first pick is Tenderlove.

JAMES: I like them too.

JOSH: His recent commit to Ruby trunk which is bringing something from Smalltalk syntax into Ruby, which is a literal symbol array. So you know how in Ruby you can do “%w{“ and just a list of words separated by spaces and it turns that into an array of strings? You can now do “%i” and then brackets and a list of words separated by spaces and it give you an array of symbols which is exactly what you want when you doing…

CHUCK: Anything!

JOSH: Yeah anything in the where you are doing in the “routes.rb”  file like accept or in control filters etc.

JAMES: I’d like to be fair, Rails will accept an array for strings for those things. I do it all the time.

JOSH: OK.

CHUCK: Anyway josh.

AVDI: I do cases outside of Rails where it’s totally not the case.

JAMES: Yeah and there are bizarre edge cases in Rails where sometimes every now and then, you use a string and they wanted a symbol and you are totally screwed.

JOSH: Don’t get me started on symbols versus strings.

*laughter*

CHUCK: We should do an episode on that. Yeah.

JOSH: Do a whole show on that. Yeah okay.

JAMES: Also its worth noting that the “I” stands for “intern”.

JOSH: Yeah and that is my fault actually. This whole thing is my fault. I was ranting on Twitter and Aaron saw me ranting and he responded with a patch. I’m like okay cool.

CHUCK: So if it stands for intern, does it ever get promoted to employ? Okay terrible joke.

JOSH: Yeah. Terrible.

*laugher*

JOSH: So my next pick, so I just checked on the David Brady and I find that this is not been a pick yet. It’s Compass CSS Framework. Yeah I’ve known about Compass and I’ve dabbled with it before that and I have used in in projects where it was already set up and project and I have never started from scratch with it before, so I recently did that just this week. I have been working on something and I decided to use Compass and its awesome! So what it is, it’s a very simple bunch of SAS libraries and some tooling infrastructure for integrating that in the projects. It gives you a lot of really cool helpers and styles for doing things like gridding and having a typographic rhythm and doing cross browser support for advanced features. The thing that I like about it is that it’s very un-opinionated. Something like Twitter bootstrap or  serv foundation have very opinionated ways of doing things, like what your buttons look like and your tables look like etcetera. Compass is a level below that. It gives you the tools go let you build those kinds of things easily.

CHUCK: Doesn’t it also do sprites? So you end with a bunch of images and you do this sprites and it will do all those styling to make it appear right for you?

JOSH: Yeah it does that and it has tons of really cool features for things like that. But the things that is great about is that there is a growing ecosystem of plugins. Because you can deliver a  SAS plugin as a Ruby Gem  and then install it into your project and you can just require it and your Compass can fit file and suddenly you have these whole set of helpers that can help you do things like 3D transforms or what have you.

CHUCK: Or if you wanna use a different grid system, then you can do that way too.

JOSH: Yeah Blue Print is something that sits on top of Compass and I’m not using Blue Print because I’m not a big fan of their system. Although they do have a recommended grid system that looks pretty appealing.

CHUCK: So those are your picks Josh?

JOSH: I go tone ain’t pick and that is Dreamhost  Rails Hosting.

*laughter*

AVDI: Oh, you use them for Rails hosting.

JOSH: Well, I’ve had good luck with Dream Host for doing domain  registration and just regular website hosting is fine. They are good in a lot of things but just don’t host Rails applications there. They recently “upgraded” their passenger implementation to one that does not support redirections in your Apache configuration and that is pretty much anyone who uses page caching including my blog. So my blog is just broken and finally the passenger can fix that bug  in passenger so it’s possible that they can have a release in dream host for upgrade.

JAMES: So, you have to wait for the upgrade again to fix it?

JOSH: Yeah so I think I just got to move off there. But my blog is it’s actually a fair amount to port it and I’m way to busy these days for that. If there’s anyone out there who wants to be an intern and rescue my blog for me, please contact.

CHUCK: I think he really wants the help.

JOSH: Yeah if somebody wants to help, I will love you forever but at least for a week. That’s it for my picks.

CHUCK: Alright so I have some picks. My first pick is the Flickr Creative Commons Search. If you are doing a talk, that is a great way to go and find images that you are going to put on your slides. You do need to be aware that usually, have to give some sort of attribution and so you wind up putting a link either at the bottom or at the end of your talk at the bottom of your slide and pictures on it at the end of the talk (let me clarify). But there are a lot of terrific images on there and you can sort by the different type of creative commons licenses there are on the images and then that works pretty.

Another place that I have gone to look at images is Google Image Search. I’ll put a link to add in there as well. If you do a search on Google and you click at images on the top that’s essentially how you get there. You can find stuff there. A lot of times what you are going to find there are copyrighted, so its kind of use at your own risk or you can track down who owns the copyright.

And finally the last place if you absolutely have to have some kind of high quality images or something like  that, something that you really want to kind of make your thing shine, you can  get stuff from iStock Photo. And I really like them. I try to avoid the pictures of like men in suits shaking hands or girl in a nice blouse sitting in the computer looking at the camera. I mean those are kind of cheesy, but sometimes they have interesting renderings of different things. Sometimes it’s worth buying one or two images for a couple bucks of off there if they are kind of visually stimulating, to kind of get your attention and make you really “feel” the point that you’re trying to make.

So those are my picks I’m just going to pick those sites for images and recommend that if you are going to make a point, then do it with an image if you can. People react a whole lot better to that then sit and read your bullet points and coming back onto where you’re talking halfway through your second bullet point and they realize they missed the whole point of the first one.

Anyway, with that we are going to go and wrap this up. We do have a book club coming up. It’s going to be on the 22nd and we are going to be talking about to the authors of “Growing Object-Oriented Software By Tests”. You can also sign up for Ruby Rogues Parlay by going to rubyrogues.com and clicking on the parlay stuff over not the side bar and is there anything else that we need to announce before we wrap this up?

JAMES: Yeah, I’m now on page 8 of the Ars Technical Review.

CHUCK: You don’t even know what I picked, did you?

JAMES: I’m just kidding. I do know what you picked. I once used  picture of a pregnant women off of iStock Photo.

CHUCK: Nice.

JAMES: In a Ruby talk.

CHUCK: What was it? Waiting for Rails 3.0 is like being pregnant for two years?

JAMES: No, it’s about forking.

CHUCK: There you go. Alright well, I guess we are done. We’ll wrap this up. Well catch you all next week!

7 comments
nateklaiber
nateklaiber

Listened to this episode this morning. Some personal pet peeves of mine:

 

1. Don't tell me about how nervous you are. We know that speaking in public is nerve wracking. 

2. Don't tell me about how you just finished doing your slides, or make jokes about how you put things together the night before.

3. As stated in the episode, don't read from the slides.

 

Also, you guys mentioned speaking about a topic you may not know about. I think that's OK for a user group, but if I am paying to come to a conference, I would hope I am hearing from someone with experience and knowledge on the subject matter.

 

Remember, the people who are attending paid conferences spend their money and in some cases time away from work, you should respect that when preparing your presentation.

 

Just some thoughts that came to my mind while listening...enjoyed the show.

JEG2
JEG2

 @nateklaiber Some of my thoughts about your thoughts:

 

1.  I think a lot of people think that experienced speakers, like myself, can just get up there and do it without any difficulty.  I can't.  I still get very nervous.  I say that so people can realize that's totally normal and not to be feared.

2.  I am a planner.  I finish my slides very early so I can work in some practice.

3.  Agreed.

 

As for speaking on content I learn about before the event, I may have misrepresented that a little.  I would never pick something totally alien.  It's more like a tangent that I can easily pick up.

 

Also, as I think I said in the episode, there's a lot of value to explaining something when you're newish to it and can more closely relate to the experience of others.  Experts often forget to explain the tricks they are using because they have now internalized them.

 

Finally, even a one hour conference talk is a very short period of time.  It's just not possible to go too deep with suck a short window.

 

rmillerwebster
rmillerwebster

I love you guys, but "Bounce ideas off your wife."  Really??? Some of us ARE the wives ...

JEG2
JEG2

 @rmillerwebster Yeah, I really didn't mean that to be non-inclusive.  I meant to be talking about *my* wife, the audiences wives.  My bad.  :(

breamy
breamy

I like the idea of doing a blind screening for speakers at conferences.  We have a lot of unconscious biases.

 

Orchestras have actually started implementing this practice, and as a result there are more women being selected to be in the orchestra (and more likely to be selected as the lead chair).  An article at Princeton talks about this: http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pwb/01/0212/7b.shtml

breamy
breamy

You should read "Confessions of a Public Speaker". It is a great book and talks about how to overcome some of the issues with public speaking, the fears, etc.

 

He also debunks the "fact" that more people are afraid of public speaking than death.  The survey this came from had a free-form style of feedback, and there were many different answers that could be mapped to fear of dying, but were not. 

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